Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Strangers in a Strange Land: Art, Aesthetics, and Displacement

Cities I Called Home, 2010
"Strangers in a Strange Land: Art, Aesthetics, and Displacement" is a two-day symposium organized by UCLA faculty members Saloni Mathur and Aamir Mufti to be held in conjunction with "Zarina: Paper Like Skin," the upcoming retrospective exhibition on the art of Zarina Hashmi. A New York-based artist of South Asian origin, Hashami has created an extraordinary body of minimalist works on paper that spans a period of some 40 years. The symposium will bring together scholars of a range of disciplines from literary studies to musicology to art history to examine some of the themes that animate Zarina’s work. The discussion will place her art at the intersection of important social, political, and cultural processes in contemporary global society, showing how it exemplifies the exilic imagination in modern art and aesthetic thinking.

Themes of displacement, dislocation, and dispossession become manifest in Zarina’s work through a tension posed by the stark geometrical minimalism of her canvas and its rich textural materiality. Zarina’s keen interest in geometry—she received a B.Sc. degree with honors from India’s Aligarh Muslim University in 1958 before studying woodblock printing and intaglio—is explicit in her work’s emphasis on structure, held in contrast with the actual substance of medium and technique: incision, puncturing, weaving, and sculpture. The tension holds a particular and vital role in establishing a critique and meditation in terms of the viscera of geographical memory and the stringency of imposed border control, colonial geography, and forced exile.

As art critic S. Kalidas remarks in a 2011 article in The Hindu, Zarina’s voice “raises oblique queries but refrains from making any final pronouncements.” Her work, as the artist herself states, participates in “observing spaces and distances,” with meditation on space and observer alike. “She takes her tactic,” writes Kalidas, “from the medieval Sufis who spurred inquiry into mathematics, astronomy, mysticism, metaphysics, music, and poetry and in doing so subverted the religious and political establishments of the day in favour of inclusion of the popular and the marginal. If ilm (knowledge), ishq (love) and haal (ecstasy) were their spectacular modes of protest and enlightenment, Zarina combines all three in her meditative art.”

"Paper Like Skin" reveals the breadth of Zarina’s vision and the versatility of her practice,” explains Hammer director Ann Philbin. “It joins a series of survey exhibitions organized by the Hammer that highlights important but under-recognized female artists such as Lee Bontecou and, most recently, Alina Szapocznikow. The presentation of Zarina’s work also emphasizes the museum’s commitment to the study and collection of works on paper through its Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts.”

Journey to the Edge of Land, 199

"Strangers in a Strange Land: Art, Aesthetics, and Displacement" will be held November 8th and 9th at UCLA’s Hammer Museum in Westwood. Homi Bhabha, Harvard University, will deliver the keynote address on November 8th at 7 pm. The symposium will take place on November 9th from 11 am to 5 pm. The event is cosponsored by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, Dean of the Humanities, Department of Art History, and Department of Comparative Literature.

For more information, see: http://hammer.ucla.edu/programs/detail/program_id/1433

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